BLOG: The state isn’t to blame for ‘intergenerational unfairness’, we are

Written by Lauren Weymouth
14/01/16

As a young woman working in the pensions industry, I am regularly asked the same question: “Do you have a good pension yourself?” - a question which, up until recently, I quite honestly had to reply: “No, actually, I don’t. But I will do soon.”

That response lasted for about two years until auto-enrolment kicked me into shape. But, for somebody who regularly preaches about pensions (don’t pretend you don’t bore people with it too), it seems somewhat hypocritical for me to have to say: “Actually, despite everything I’ve just said about how important it is to save as early as possible, I haven’t put a single penny away myself”.

But I’m not alone. I work in the industry, know the consequences of not saving, yet I am still in denial about it. So, you can only imagine the saving attitude of the rest of the UKs under-25s. The classic excuse, of course, is that there is always something bigger and more imminent we need to be saving for. For me, it’s always been a house: “I can’t afford to save for a pension because I’m trying to save so I can buy a place of my own”.

But let’s face it readers, I’m a 25-year-old living in London – the city where the price of renting a parking space costs as much as a five-bed house in Doncaster – I can probably afford to shuffle that priority down my list for a while.

In the meantime, I’m the first to curse auto-enrolment for taking £30 a month from my salary for my future, but I wouldn’t think twice about letting a restaurant take £25 from my account on a Friday night for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

With this in mind, when the Work and Pensions Committee today launched a new inquiry on “intergenerational fairness”, I couldn’t help but feel like we were being fed a giant spoonful of inertia. Sure, my grandparents have a fantastic retirement. Twice a year they sail off on a cruise ship and enjoy the benefits of the gold-plated final salary pension they received twenty five years ago, but I’m sure they often look at the younger generation and envy the kind of lifestyle we are able to live too.

There are more opportunities now to save money than there has ever been. New apps for cost-cutting are popping up like molehills, so there is no excuse not to be able to put some of those savings away for a not-so-dissimilar style of retirement.

Personally, I see little use in comparing the state pension received by today’s pensioners with the state pension we’re likely to receive in 2056. There is equally as little use in comparing our workplace pensions with the glittering DB schemes of the 50s. Our economy changes as often as Donald Trump causes offence; I think we can afford to be a little more optimistic.

We’re a country that has fought against austerity for years, yet when it comes to financing, we’re all too afraid of taking responsibility ourselves. Perhaps my stance will change as I approach retirement, and perhaps I'll look back blissfully at the days of only banking £30 a month, but for now? I’ll continue saving my coppers and making the most of happy hour. Cheers!

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